DSCN6011The guys and gals of Cheap Flights gave me a call this week since they found out that I was in the know about Panama after a recent lovely press trip via Diamond PR. These gals always make sure you get to know the entire region, not just the hotel. After one of their trips one has a true appreciation for the entire country of Panama and the people who call it home. So please check out CheapFlights.ca’s Insider’s Guide to Panama.  This is a little compilation of some tips that I gave them earlier this week. Now get your own cheap flights to Panama from Cheapflights and refresh yourself today with a little spa travel!

Here is the article “Insider’s Guide to Panama” from Ava Roxanne Stritt as originally published by Cheapflights!

An Insider’s Guide to Panama

“Panama has so much to offer and too few people are heading there these days, but that is all about to change. This growing destination is on its way to offering almost more than anyone can imagine on one trip. You can visit the famous Panama Canal, which you have been hearing about since the 5th grade, and by the afternoon be in a rainforest with natives cooking a meal for you. Make a promise to yourself this year to be one of the first of many, destined to make this the next Dubai. The Panama Canal will be celebrating its 100th anniversary soon and is expanding and building new locks. Panama has also been listed recently in numerous places in the media as one of the top 10 places to retire. BUT don’t wait that long to discover all it has to offer you. Panama has recently been in the news and named a number one new top destination by CNN, FOX, Forbes, Spa Travel Gal and more. Visit now!” – Ava, The Spa Travel Gal

Great restaurants only locals would know:

For steaks seasoned to perfection one must visit Tierray Y Fuego. This Latin steakhouse will give you your favourites with a Latin twist. The panoramic ocean views make this upscale glamorous dining establishment the place to be scene.Venture into the old town of Casco Viejo for dinner to dine in a historical colonial stucco building with décor that features local art on the walls and religious artefacts on their shelves. This is where one can dine at Manolo Caracol. Here, small plates and fixed menus are what are on the menu and common to Panama, but I can assure you that nothing about the food here is common. As with most restaurants in the region, there is an Asian flare. You are served chop sticks with most meals. Brush up on your Panama Canal history before you visit, so you will understand why this region is full of influences from many other nations. The menu here is created daily by Spanish Chef Manolo. The menu is complete with the freshest items found each day at dawn at the market. If you want to experience dinner as a local, you need to go here. One may then decide the need to brush up on their Spanish a little.

Places to feel like a local:

To feel like a local definitely take a dip in the Panama Canal, but definitely no night swimming in your birthday suit. You will get eaten by an array of local wildlife that live in the canal. Unlike the people of Panama, they do not like visitors! Go dancing and have the world’s greatest Mango Mojito at the downstairs or rooftop bar at Tantalo in Casco Viejo. Just dress to impress here and be prepared to wait your turn to be granted permission to the rooftop area. Unique décor abounds here from suitcase tabletops, a cultivated live “green” wall and stunning rooftop night skies. Get a driver from Gamboa Tours to at least see Panama like a local. Yes your concierge at your resort can tell you the best places (for tourists) to visit during their stay, but for a real taste of the city pick the brain of your tour driver. You may also get some very interesting local tales as a bonus.

Must-do activities:

Plan an early morning remarkable journey to the Embera Village through Gamboa Tours. Bring everything you have to catalogue your experience (i.e. iPhone, Camera, GoPro). The trip begins with the most soothing canoe ride upstream on the Chagres River. This experience alone is worth the price. When you get to the village you will be met by many members of the tribe from multiple generations. You will then be invited to dine, dance and dye as part of your experience while there. You can also get yourself a temporary tattoo by way of a vegetable dye called Jagus juice. Leave with a belly full of freshly grilled and locally caught fish along with a side of fried plantains tostones style! Get some culture with a visit to the BioMuseo which is having its grand opening in 2013. The theme of this museum is to showcase the influence that the region of Panama has made to the entire world for ages. This museum is by Frank Gehry of Guggenheim fame. He did not just put his name on it or attend a consulting meeting. Gehry’s wife is Panamanian and he lives in Panama now. He has touched every area of the space with his vision. BioMuseo is expected to draw many thousands of visitors each year. One section will feature the unique way the landmass divides both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and thus explaining how this small piece of real estate enables the country of Panama to change the world through geology, biodiversity and conservation. When the tectonic plates shifted suddenly, the small country of Panama was straddling two continents.

Great spots for relaxing:

Now it’s time for a little relaxation. It is now time for a spa treatment. The newly opened Sensory Spa by Clarins at the Westin Playa Bonita is my pick for the number one destination-spa for this year. Staying all day is a must so you can experience and enjoy the hydra-therapy room featuring a Raindance Rainmaker Experience Shower, Herbal Sauna and Amethyst Crystal Steam Room. My favourite ritual here is the unique Pediluvio Stream. Here you walk through a current on round river stones to massage your feet into a Zen-like state, just the way the rest of your body will be feeling after visiting The Sensory Spa by Clarins. The spa has will leave you in a total state of bliss, so be sure to return to your room. The top place to lounge would be in your Renewal Suite at the Westin Playa Bonita. This is also the top place to watch the boats line up to pass through the canal. You can watch from either of your balconies or from your chaise lounge with the TV controls in hand if you must (guys)!

About the author:
Ava Roxanne Stritt is a travel writer with a large and active following. As a Spa Travel Gal, she believes that travel, spa and skincare experiences are not a luxury, but essential to a healthy body and mind. She is also the founder of the twitter chat #SkincareSunday. Ava is a writer, a financial analyst, and a wife and mother from Atlanta along with being a huge exotic animal lover. Thus she is very active at the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. For her writings on the joys of travel, spas, skincare, and ways to refresh your life follow her at SpaTravelGal and sign up for her newsletter for deals and tips to get yourself refreshed today! Spa Travel Gal Ava believes Travel, Spa and Skincare Experiences are not a Luxury, but Essential to a Healthy Body and Mind!